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Versatile Mitra Vows Bengali Music Fans

August 2005
Versatile Mitra Vows Bengali Music Fans

Lopamudra Mitra, the popular Bengali singer, comes with a resume that boasts training in Rabindrasangeet, classical music as well as adhunik (modern) songs ? with an accent on experimentation. On July 16, BAGA hosted an evening at Meadowcreek High School featuring Mitra live in concert, to the delight of her many fans.

The moment she started with her introductory numbers, the audience realized that they were in for an evening of exploration and novelty. Her first Rabindrasangeet with only a Spanish guitar accompaniment was startling and indicative of the experimentation she's famous for.

Choosing poems from modern Bengali poets and setting them to tune was said to be one of her forte. The selection of songs included ballads to the memory of her grand-mom, a fast-paced ditty on the wonders of cooking sweet-water fish with cumin and green chilies, an admonition to the authorities for meddling in cultural pursuits, the commonplace carpet covering a bare floor, children and their habits of studying and a song that paid tribute to the wandering mind and soul. The beat was often syncopatic with a riff of jazz or an open refrain that could lead one to think that a tropical Latin love song was on its way, but totally belied all expectations when the rendition turned out to be a modified form of kirtan (religious song).

Mitra has a commanding stage presence, preferring to stand and express her moods and emotions with her swaying hands and face. One could compare her presence to that of Joan Baez or Maria Bethania with shades of Usha Uthup (for the old timers). She customarily slides back to Rabindrasangeet as a baseline, which lets her adjust on a trail of exciting new riffs and lyrics that are rarely expressed with such emotion and operatic resonance in Bengal.

She sang her favorites like ?Beni Madhav' and ?Mushkil Ashaan', but the highlight for many was her version of ?Bhalobashi, Bhalobashi' - a Rabindrasangeet that she sang with just a guitar accompaniment. The number was decidedly romantic. The mood was heightened complementing lighting control by BAGA technicians.

The expert accompaniment by Sourav (Joy) Sarkar on guitar, Santu Biswas on percussions, Gora Chand Ram on keyboard and Premangshu Das on electronic drums added flavor to the pleasant evening of music. The guitarist, Joy Sarkar, had actually made a lot of tunes for the poetic songs in the evening's fare.

Mitra's approach to Rabindrasangeet would easily produce converts of those who believe this genre to be slow and sleep inducing.

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- Shankar Sengupta


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